tv Back Story Podcast Behind-the- Scenes CSPAN August 21, 2019 3:47pm-5:25pm EDT
his book is "the heartbeat of wounded knee." rick atkinson, thomas malone, founding director of the m.i.t. center for intelligence. the national book festival, live saturday, august 31st at 10:00 a.m. eastern on book tv on c-span 2. next on american history tv, back story host brian mallow and nathan connolly give a look at their weekly podcast. they're joined by a staff member and a regular guest. this is part of a purdue university conference called "remaking american history." it's an hour and a half. welcome to the 10:45 panel called something like "behind the scenes, a back story". >> that's right.
>> maybe. just so you know you're not on the wrong flight. i'm brian balogh and i've been a co-host for backstory for over ten years now. i'm going to introduce the panel and then we're each going to say a few words about our quite different roles -- well, nathan and i have the same role. he's trying to steal the 20th century from me and doing a pretty good job of it, but we all have relatively different roles and backstory. we are going to talk about that a little bit. and then we are going to open it up to your questions. just for starters, this is not what it looks like behind the scenes at backstory. in fact, we're rarely in the same place at the same time. i had to google nathan to see what he looked like, for instance, even though i talk to him every week. so introducing myself, i'm a professor at the university of virginia, i co-host backstory and i direct the national
fellowship program at the jefferson scholars foundation. my co-host nathan connolly, of course, is known to most of you as an outstanding scholar. he is the herbert -- herbert baxter adams chair of history at the johns hopkins university. he is the author of a world more concrete, real estate and the remaking of jim crow's south florida. he is also hard at work on a book that is really a deep transnational family history. is that -- >> that's right. >> a fair description? >> yes. >> and it's called "four daughters" and it's a five generation history of one working class family whose
travels and travails took them between the caribbean, europe and the united states. nathan is also an overall good citizen and as part of his good citizenship he has been involved in a project that a number of you out there are working on i in a project that a number of you out there are working on and mapping inequality where you are branching out the landscape in the united states. joey thompson graduated from the university of virginia about 12 minutes ago. and his dissertation is titled militaryism and the making of of -- this is one of the best cultural histories that i have read in 35 years in advising graduate students, his adviser
was grace hale. he's onto a job as an assistant in the state of missouri. joe is here because he had the fortune of being a researcher for ba"backstory" for two years. what you will find is monica blair who always sits up front, he's our current researcher and phd candidate at the department of history. joey and monica and several other outstanding scholars have done the research that really powers, the intellectual connections in back zstory if there are any. joey chaplin who i met at the
joh john hopkins' university. the only person that was always there and that was joey chaplin. you a >> you are going to tell them everything? >> no, i stop right there. >> she's the professor of early american history. her most recent work includes ground about the earth. circumnavigatiing magellan to orbit. and joyce has been kind enough to be a guest on "backstory" three times. she's going to talk to us about
what it is to be dropped in a show where people know each other pretty well and bring scholarshi scholarships on a topic that we hope will reach a broader topic. let me take five or ten minutes to give you a berief history of "back story." it airs at the yuuniversity of richmond. we are four historians, we know nothing about our own history. we can't tell you exactly when we start it. we have no archives. i guess since you're all historians, none of this comes as a great surprise for you. i did some primary research
meaning i went back to the oldest e-mails i had. there is an exchange in 2005 about possibly doing a show, it has had many horrible names, the one that i remember best is the one i suggested "history hotline," that lasted about three minutes, i think. the show started when a man named andrew wyndham who worked for humanities which we are still housed in and still support us. andrew wyndham suggested to air and peter onus that it would be fun to do a radio show on history. peter responded saying to things, number one, we don't know enough history. we need somebody in the 20th
century. number two, we are not very funny so nobody is going to be interested if the show. andrew prevailed on a, and peter came to me. i said that's a ridiculous idea. nobody is going to be interested and we spent about a year and a half doing one demo which was truly horrible. if it does not exists, we all made separate attempt to burn this demo. we circulated that to ten or so directors of public radio stations, our notion was eventually if we hit the big times, we would be on one or two public radio stations and originally the show was a college show. we took calls from people and we discussed specific topics that went across three centuries. we were undeniably three dead
white males. we really took pride in owning our own centuries, one of our most frequent trophs. that was one o f tf the formats used again and again. we got training on a live radio show. we all were sitting in the studio. we went on the show live. i called in whether william and mary had been founded on pirate booty. i was pointing at peter and peter is pointing add ed. ed is googling furiously. wikipedia is next to monica and
joey. that was our major research engine. peter answered the question and i have no idea how he answered. we were fortunate enough to air as a monthly show on local public radio stations meaning central virginia also wtju, the university's station. that's how we got our start and fortunate to expand roughly to 200 public radio stations around the country. we had some good in terms of audience, stations, public radio stations in chicago, probably reached the largest audience of any stations.
we were also in alaskan public radio. i know we were on washington, d.c. on 7:00 in the morning, we were incredibly popular with camp drivers. i am assuming some of them had passengers. at least more than one person was listening to us in washington, d.c. roughly about three years ago we made two important decisions. one of them was triggered by peter onof. 18th century guy deciding to retire both from the university of virginia and stepped down from "backstory." we were fortunate to reach out to nathan connerly and joanne freeman and they joined us of their lives of experiences and
their own experience of public engage. ment . at the same time we decided to make a kind of take a deep gulp decision. we pulled off of 200 public radio stations and went to a podcast only format. at the time i didn't know what a podcast was. i urged to do the podcast even though i didn't know how to find a podcast on my phone because of two things. we wanted to reach a much more diverse audience and we wanted to reach much younger audience. we lucked out. the podcast turned out to be successful. on our 200 public radio
stations, the estimates were hazy. the estimates were, we were reaching roughly 40,000 listeners. we are currently downloaded by roughly 100,000 listeners every week. i should have mentioned about 8 or 9 years ago, we went to a weekly format and we continued that weekly format on podcasting. so i am in love with my cohosts. i am in love with our researchers and i am in love with our sizable production staff. we have averaged staff overall full-time of seven or eight people. so, we are still aiming for a sound and i am amazed people keep coming up and they think we
just get together and sit around a table and shoot debris. we are in. but, in fact it is a costly production and it is a complicated production. if it sounds good, it is because of the credible co-hosts that i have and it is because of the a amazing staff that we have now over ten years. so i am happy to answer a lot of questions and questions and answers. i am going to turn it over to nathan and ask a question that i have never asked. what did it feel like to kind of just come into an existing podcast with at least too old like that, ed? >> like this. resuscitate right away. >> so it was with the benefit of
having appeared on ba"backstory and having done the show, we did one in washington. and i will be honest and say up front that i had a certain amount of trepidation of taking this move into doing media work in large part because of where i was in my career as an assistant professor with all kinds of expectations about timetable and clock and early association professors and brian will be the fe fe first one to tell you and agonizing how to do work life balance of three young children and manuscripts in the pipeline and the process of imagining my own calculations and trade offs had a lot to do with really trying to understand generres. the back story was a phenomenon way to begin to engage how
senior scholars think about really be expansive complicated ideas and extraordinary compelling ways. one of the things i am sure brian won't take a lot of credit for or ed or for that matter, what's the other guy? >> peter. >> is that you know they have the benefit of being able to take a field at a glance and really look at it and come at it of complicated extraordinary grounded and that's a skill that i had to do a fair amount of learning about. you really understanding that as much as i want to complex things, it is about trying to show the complexity in the details and learning from these folks have been wonderful in that regard. i will also say the show itself was going through, this was all happening backstage. it is own agonizing conversion from broadcast to podcast.
a lot of the process of creating a show for the radio had to do with basically proximating mpr sound. the strategy in the booth had a lot to do getting our show to sound like this american life or prairie on companion and a lot that goes into how many times one read the script. it may have come off contemporaneously and try to take two and three. we arrived in terms of our own podcasting at a much. we are in an environment where last i heard this may have been two-old data. there were 400,000 podcasts that were out there. top 1% of the podcast means something people want to tune in, means there is a challenge, coming up with topics and
finding the news cycles and some ways the most exhausting things about that is first year on "backstory" was the trump's story of january 2017. we spent weeks after weeks with no shortage of things we had to offer with deep contextual views. >> i am the one that says we have to do a show not about donald trump. i came up with a great idea, the history of hair. >> the he is industistory of ha. >> suffice to say that one of the things that we have been able to do very well is find a way of balancing two things.
one is in a field where we all like to imagine ourselves as being really effective collaborator. there is a lot of going into structuring productive collaborating. sometimes you are on a committee or coarthuring something. i think one of the things that makes it easy for us to work on "backstory" and think of the show, because of the team that we have there is a clean division oaf labor that allows engineers to engineer and producers to produce. we'll often times bounce, actual intellectual questions off of engineers and producers and they'll help us arrive at things and so we'll help of the script work on the fly. you will get new and fresh content but from deep levels of
expertise. it is really important and really useful to learn how to do that. the other thing that i would say is that i think it is really critical to think a lot now about how we are engaging in the public. i know there are a lot of, for me personally, i do the kind of work i do come out of the left orientation and the kind of questions i ask are grounded materialist questions and antiracist work that wi have ben doing for a long time. doing that work in a space that has been opened up in a way that maybe some npr audiences may not always be -- how does one do antiracist work in a liberal media atmosphere. i know we are having a lot of conversations now about who's electable or what is acceptable or discourse and i think the back story provided me with an important platform for
experimenting figuring out some of that middle ground and that still radical perspective could be. it is extraordinary research and our own deep historical sensibility allowed us to feel much more confidentab when we d decide to step out and push the debate. >> can i ask you one more job? can you say a few words on our regular gig on "hear now." >> another one came with the new podcast format was a partnership with the folks at "hear now." we have been doing basically every other week appearances on "here now." it had about a million listeners. >> we got about 9 millions to
entertain those listeners. and oftentimes being on topics with the news cycle. it is a compressed timetable to get our hands-on issues in ways that are directed at trying to take advantage of our expertises expertiseexpertis expertise as scholars. the first i would say 19 or 20, without exception, very self eye n annihilating. >> i should have said this or that. >> i should have read the texts. it it is all would feel but especially the early going, we were trying to figure out do they want us to be analysts or talking wikipedia pages.
there are things that we have said they decided it may be too polarizing for their audiences. it is a relationship that i think is mutually beneficial. we still figure out a little bit of a tweaking about whether or not we get the chance to be personality. the great thing about "back story" is that you have been in a relationship as the host with people. i think there is still another round of evolution that we can spare with that relationship to make it possible for us to feel as if we are more active personality on the show. i think it is an important civic space that allowed us to be piped up into audience. we may not be looking for it with our usual podcast. >> yeah, i think it was my first appearance "here now" within a couple of hours, i was called out on on tthe show. >> that's an audience that i
don't normally reach. that's when i stop reading comments. >> okay. >> so thanks for being here and brian brian, thank you for asking me back. it has been a little over a year since i was researcher. a round of applause, or maybe not. now to monica who's a researcher. brian asked me to come here and talk about what goes in creating a prep for this show and reflect about the way this influences my time as a graduate student. i was doing this while i was grinding the dissertation, how it influenced my scholarship and most importantly for grad students out there of my job
prospec prospects. one of the most exciting and anxiety producing parts of being the research for "backstory" is handed a topic that you know absolutely nothing about. >> how do you wrangle the historians r&v of something you don't know about, write a 10 to 20 single space page prep. >> a picture of a polar bear standing on what looked like by then ice cubes. >> humor is the only way to get through. suggests interesting stories and identify authors who may make interesting interviews. building ten hours a week.
as you can tell that i am anover prepared. that could be demanding at times. i think why it is important for a show like that to have a dedicated researchers rather than for that to be something the hosts are doing, nathan gestures towards his crazy schedule. i can't imagine you are trying to research the whole show. >> how do you go about doing something like that? >> this is a familiar process. >> i usually start with journal and blogs, american quarterly, modern american history and black perspectives were really key for me and being able to find these stories that we can use for each episodes. journal articles are not particularly useful because, if they are found in the right way, they can be a segment. other times when ever i found
which would go into a general for the host to read or producer to see and hopefully that'll generate conversations that happens in between segments of the show if you are familiar of the format. i rely on articles of "climate history of reflexivityreflexivi. we are trying to reach a general audience. as a researcher, my job is to take this theoretical work and digest it into facts and stories and hand it over to the hosts and producers. with that article, it was helpful of creating this intellectual and cultural history of perceptions of climate change. i want to give out a shout-out working in different departments
of the government right now. those websites, the contents, branches of the government. that stuff is you know it is really key for getting the nuts and bolts of particularly political history. it is interesting to think about how those are phd historians working in those positions. the way that people who did not take the academic route wound up in government and then between the academy and the government and the media with that. just a shout out to those historians. >> looks liking a great source to me. the other is good old fashion shelf-writing. he uva has this tremendous library source and it was not accounted for me to go in there looking for one book but come out of 20. that was helpful in a way looking at additional sources
was not always as productive. you can go through a book and check out stories. related to that, it was often, i would go to the best kind of synthetic history that i could find of the biggest historical arc of the show prep. for the climate change episode, i relied on james fleming, historical perspective on climate change. the discovery of global warming. these types of works once where authors create these narratives. they're indespencible. another great method for me was relying on colonies. it was uncommon for me to e-mail and reach out to my peers at uva or other institutions. in the case of time change, i
reached out to one of brian's students suggested who i knew was working on climate change and weaponization of weather and asked if you can kindly share your research to help me figure it out, which he did. i bring it up to point out how important it is for us to use our network as scholars to help create this public programming. we are lucky to have people who'll donate their time and research that way. >> relatedly, i believe it was nathan that subjected chaplin for this episode, he knew she was working on this climate change topic and she was kind enough to share in progress research and we created a segment around that. >> so using all that research, i would then try to tease out continuity continuity verses change overtime. fie
finding historical presidents and naanalogies for the topic. there is a kind of weird comfort that i think we provide, audiences in this way to say that you have been here before. so on the one hand with a show like climate change, listeners can feel a little less like they are living in unprecedented time like oh we have been talking about climate change for a long time and the world has not ended just yet. maybe there is still something we can do. but, you know on the other hand there is this kind of sad con newspap con ne continuity to that. we still have heated people,
warnings on this. what does the prep looks like? >> usually i would start following the tag line of the show, i would start with something that i found in the news to catch the reader's attention and the producer. hey, this could be a lead for the show in the case of the climate change and resent news the faa grounded planes in phoenix new to heat. you can't fly planes, certain atmospheres reaches a certain threshold. whatever i would often throw that in there to spur conversations.
recommend potential interviews and highlight the big issues and arguments and themes that draws discussions. it is a weird feeling to provide that information sometimes to such experts. never have i felt more ridiculous than writing a prep on reconstruction for ed airs. i say that and even the sharpest minds in the game appreciate having the basic facts in front of them and sort of reminders and prompts of things. then moving into the body of the prep, i would highlight the story of that family that would make interesting segments. i usually presented those in chronological orders. that's not the way it always turns out when it is produced on the show. we are historians. it is helpful to walk me through down the timeline.
i was thinking about this and there was three ways i can talk about that. one was it kept me up to date on recent publications. i started this job at "backstory." and in some way working for them felt like a continuation and writiing seminars. it was great, it kept me up to date. number two, it gave me an exposure to a wide variety of writing styles and methodology that i would not have gotten. so you know, it is cliche. it is cliche for a reason. it is great to be able to bust out of that and i went to the
historical climate change and i learned something. >> lastly how to write for journal audiences. yeah, you know people are turning into historians for answers now. that's something we should encourage. you know it never helps to write well when you are doing that. as far as the job market. you know i entered graduate school with zero expectations of actually finding a job as a professor. and low in bow hold, thate hold way it works out. i don't need to recite the job markets here. i say that to, back story was a way that i could start cultivating a different side of my resume in teaching and publishing rights. it was a way to make my public
history coincides and starts looking elsewhere for jobs. i went through that whole phd program with my one foot out. that was a great, it created a great opportunity for that. it gave me an understanding of what kind of stories connect with digital and public. there were many times i would write a prep and find the story and think oh, i will definitely use that for a segment because whatever scholar or relevant i found, for the producers to squash them. learning what media production people think, verses what i think would be great for scholarship. so i was able to apply for different public history jobs even i applied for academic jobs. i was looking for jobs in the media production.
the researcher before me, her name was melissa, she used her experience to land jobs at the walrus and as a producer at the cbc and she's back at "backstory." melissa is a brilliant historians. she can do anything she wanted to. so i wanted to see how he bridged her academic training with the media skills she picked up. lastly i will say working for the public history really helped my odds on the jobs market in terms of the numbers of jobs that i can apply for within the academy. >> i applied for dozens of jobs this year and a third of those had some component of public history teaching or doing public histo history. it was just a way to beef up that part of my work and i was internally grateful for that. i will end there.
>> no, you won't. i would love for you to comment on how do you submit your own materials. >> sure. >> scholarly. >> the episode on hair. rather than we lead with donald trump, may come toll a l a lot people's mind including my own. brian was asking around anything else and he kind of show toppered that we could use. i happen to be writing about elvis presley, given his haircut back in 1958. that was part of chapter 3 of mine. >> and so we were able to use that as show timer. i got to be on the mic and put my own research out there which was a great appetizing for me. a great promotion.
>> i indebted to brian for that as well. >> joyce. >> i liked how the pulse started when you talked about elvis. >> when you have a production team of eight people, things happened, joyce. >> clearly. >> thank you for setting up this panel and the opportunity to talk about what i have done with "back story" and also meet everybody in person. >> the climate episode was my third time. before that we worked on nelly black frid blide. the one before that, that i can't remember. >> but, it was memorable. >> we last that memory. >> that episode i was in chicago so i remember being very cold in the studio. >> the second one i was in cambridge and the third one i was in italy.
>> the i mentioned that because i ended up doing the taping to the units radio station in venn mis. i am delighted to have any tu opportunity to thank them again. they were future caantastic and extremely helpful. i knew the kinds of questions you were pitching me came up with materials that was not interesting to these students. i was impressed and remained impressed that you chose the atomic climate. two years ago when this was not common for a lot of public media. it is becoming very prominent, an episode for bbc, radio four which i contributed to aired on
tuesday, i am getting the requests a lot. you guys are there first. >> bbc thinks huh? >> that's what we should do. but around the same time, i work with you all, i was asked to write something for an online magazine and i pitched a climate story and there was a pause and the editor e-mailed back and said funny thing, climate change is not fial to human lives but to reader ship. could you think of writing about something else? i didn't e-mail right back because i was so angry for a minute. that's not the reason, you don't run with the story. you realized it was an important topic and had to be covered at a
time when obviously your peers were not necessarily going to agree with that. let me say just a little bit of contact of the segment that i did. there were four or five stories and i did one part of it about early modern climate change. the colonization of the america, invasion by the europeans took place during a period of global cooling that goes under the name of ice age from get began about 1300 on ward. if we were not, we would be feeling the effect of global warming even more. and inability of places like virginia to produce all o of -- just kind of in
comprehension and during this period as well, european columnists thought they may be able to change it. so not only was this a period in which climate change were occurring. so the british columnists thought eventually if they cut down the trees, they would clear the forests and open lands for cultivation. the weather would moderate and temperatures would get warmer. they were wrong of course. cutting down forest with warm conditions. their reasons are different from ours. here you have fairly complex idea about how human interactions with the natural world can produce hemispheric changes. there is also a debate whether the theory was correct. jefferson signed onto the cut
down the trees and hypothesis. benjamin franklin discuwas skep. be careful of what you wish for. what's what i would talk about if i remember it. >> it was once designed to one people now -- well, encouraging to think of the past as separate resources for ways of thinking of problems we have today. a lot of discussions about climate change now emphasizes the sense that this has never happened before and a major crisis. there are dimensions of that. but, i think that we we over emphasizes.
we are encouraging them to think of how people in the past have dealt with such problems and how their solutions may or may not, that was really. the episode was great about exercising within this. >> i think these stories probably if i pitch a climate story to places. i would not get this response. know that it will kill the reader's interest. >> there is greater interests. and that was one reason why i didn't think it was a great idea to have this panel and revise the episodes and add to conversations. and about things that are yo religious climate are growing. i also liked how episode, the
stories when into political dimensions to emphasize climate change now and earlier have all been about politics and understanding interphase between what happens to the natural world and how scientific and non-scientific understanding so what's going on in climate have political dimensions. i thought that was necessarily and i liked how the episode ends by pointing out where climate change comes from and political context of that. late, early 21st century. it needs to be continued to be discussed. as claimant are being discussed now, a lot of issues remains sort of don't touch that.
i worked as brian said on thomas, the original. i did the northern critical, principle population. it includes later in i literation orr discussio discus. i am aware how discussions of population had been very fraud. extremely fraud. it is striking to me that you can have a conversation with most people about what kind of car they drive. do they have a car? is it a normal car or an electric car? >> 20 years ago a lot of people would be offend. well, they knew where that conversation is going.
you can now have a conversation with somebody about that. >> climate change something is most reasonable suctions of the public thinks it is a problem. you can't have a conversation about how many children they have. this remains a topic where people are like no, i am sorry, that's none of your business. i shut down an entire dinner party. people would ask, hey, what are you working on? >> elvis. p it is not the unrelated topic. it is not the only one. i am not goeing to say populatin is the driver. it is one where people are reluctant getting into that. politics have me talk of human used of the natural world. >> unfinished business.
really necessarily so think about. >> the last thing i will say is if you were to do. an update, a new episode on climate or environmental perhaps more broadly defined. what was not included last term and we did not disor come up. this is a dimension of human rights. >> environmentalism including climate change was a long categorized, it is one of those luxury worries. environmentalism was privilege white people trashed for the trail in university. . yeah, we'll get around that. it is not that climate change may eventually be a fundamental
attack on people's well-being. their ability to live where their ancestors have lived. it is a threat to a lot of populations in the world on this level. and i think that's just something that you know one episode can't do everything. this is a depressing why in which we need to think. congress change o collapse of le system. we legislative with some of the biggest hype si. >> can we private the sexual system collapse? >> there was no answer. >> thinking of how even now environmental collapse afelfectg
people and how in the future, it will be an extreme problem. >> i am tieing to hear that show. >> i i would pay attention to them this afternoon. maybe we can work together to pitch that show. >> thank you very much joyce. >> anyone want to add anything before we oat pen it up for question s >> thank you so much. maybe we can all identify as well. >> it katy and i am from the professor here at purdue. thank you so much for a terrific conversation. i am wondering if i can hav have -- something that you talked about the question of
time. how do you fit into your schedule. that's consumed by research and teaching and service. how do you carve out this particular time and make it valuable and make it valuable to your colleagues within the department and can you review and kmicommittees evaluating yo work and as a profession to make engagement work effective of our jobs. >> i guess i will start with that follow-up. when we first began the conversion from broadcast to podcast, i was coming in as a neo fighter to this platform. i was spending 15 hours a week per show. exactly. >> it was really too much time. producers said it was too much time and brian tells me it was
too much time and definitely too much time. it was while teaching and doing everything else. basically a lot of it was the learning curve. figuring out, we did spend every bit of two hours for a two-hour recession for the studio recording strips and redoing reps. we were doing a lot of heavily produced segment that requires a great deal of planning on the front ends or in terms of guests and kinds of books you want to incorporate or sount byd bytes. a lot of the earlier stuff on tp podcast size. we'll put you well from the platform and we'll recreate that moment where she denies transport and getting you someone so on and so forth.
we got everybody involved to move it now to four to five weeks. so it is much more manageable in terms of us as a team getting more streamline. relative to the question which i think is an important one of how does this register in more conventional academic conversation. this is unchartered territory right now. one of the things i find fascinating with twitter and contents on facebook. there is no denying that we have arrived at a digital moment in a production of knowledge, and you know i had a conversation with my department chair who i loved dearly about what it would need.
we talked about for instance printing up transcripts and putting that in dossier with paper to go with more conventional source. joey wrote most of those transcripts. >> and having outside podcasters review and comment on that. >> zo we are tryiso we are tryi out what it needs to have app pr reviewed of this kinds of area. >> if you have allison hobbs or cruz. nobody can really sustain that platform as being unscholarly. at some point we'll have to get why, there is got to be a away of measuring impact. not simply along the line of how many sometimes you have signed on it.
the jeannie is out of the bottle. >> many of you who are working in academic journals, you see the sand movie of the -- you know that's a platform that you are findsing harder aing harder. i am not worried about whether or not the effect is being done and it will be fruitless. higher education is going to have to adjust and the technology adjust. >> i will say on this and this connects to the point that joey raised earlier. one of the fruit full conferences and tough moment, i am speaking of the long-term now more than 10-year contraction and the make mick of jobs market, is that there has been
extraordinary talented minds. that can only make it again phenomenon a much more productive debate. >> the fact you have people working as a journalist or no l novelis novelists. if i can do library work until i get my academic jobs. >> folks who are making their sucre, again, you think about the kinds of journalists. really these are folks who research it and oftentimes we doctored it in history. >> we -- i feel as if there is going to be a gradual acknowledgment on the part of the university to basically recognize that scholars are
going to feel much greater pay payoff. popular leadership, if i get 15,000 people to read something ochlt that's a lot more attractive then writing something for 1500 people. >> so, you know i think in a lot of ways, they'll have to figure out how to properly and hunting way. >> would you like to add anything to that? >> two things. >> i really think you are absolutely right. one, upside to the university and make media. great opportunity to be to redefine what people with phd's can or should do. >> i remember when environmental historians were at pain to say they were not environmental lists. they were not politically engaged. i am just looking back on that.
what on earth were they thinking? >> i think stepping up and making public statements and using the crime and knowledge that we have is credible. >> it is not the moment to say there is no area iscim in what i do. >> i want to went the questions of senior academy. if i had the chance to say something in public, i should do that. what's going to happen? >> i am safe that a lot of people have been doing that. i think where i pause is when i want to get a 10 year college involved. >> this is tricky. i don't want to be the kind of paternalist who says i am going to make the decision for them and not talk to them about it.
>> having that grown up making a decision of how much time and what kind of contour without any sense. they should do it or they nould shot have to do it. that's a really sticky question about more as a rule vulnerable stage for your career. >> how much time and risk especially now fizzablety to the public is not as pleasant. >> that had unresolved questions. university of administrators probably needs to have clear guidelines of what risks. >> briefly, you will be shocked i am going to address the europe friday, implementation on this. but, my limited experience with those hitting higher at
universities is they prey on public engagement. >> phd themselves they understands the danger us let's say the person news not 10 years or person in they than situation. >> host still as fires to go on getting permission and chairs and all those kinds of things. >> my sense is that -- >> he already has a chair. >> my sense is that the people of the -- they're really is a disk connect between what the people running the university, not to mention they are often highly paid large organizations,
dedicated to public engagement but let's put that aside. they are always athletic departments, maybe that's not a good example. and, our own colleagues, our colleagues who write the report for ten years and promotion who are no longer against this. i have warchtched this change. they no longer hold it against you if you write out for "the washington post" or on "backsto "backstory" or whatever. in terms of implementation, quite literally, i don't know which organizations you would go to but a discussion between the decision makers within our own disciplines where all of this starts and those people who run
universities may go a away towas resolving all of this. >> we need more conferences like this one. i am going to give you a shout-out for organizing where like, great divide between presenting -- say i would like to panel the first panel, terrific set of scholarly presentations. but they're also discussions of how to engage the public, that we ourselves are not distinguishing between the two. >> right. just as a quick rider to that comment, you know, backstory is pennsylvania university-supported show in many respects, right. so if you think about the fact that you have you know one sbun like ed ayres a seeing value in the show. gets support from the university of virginia and the pro voeft
office at johns hopkins helps support the show. i've had fruitful conversations with my provoeft who wants to see scholars out there engaged with an impact as a final .1 of the most chfrting and eye opening conversation base this process actually came as i was still an assistant professor and then my department chair john marshall was comforting letting me know, by the way the people on the schoolwide tenure promotions kbht they are scientist pg. historians are terrible at winding occupien theed boards of reviewing the dossiers and have toe cues themselves in your own department. the scientists are reviewing for file. one of the questions the scientists ask folks in the humanities is what's the impact of in skrrship? right. >> right. and we wind up making an easy and compelling case saying you can see where this scholar is showing up and impacting present day conversations, the application of in research and so on. in some ways again not calling
are falling into the mythlogical notion that these are paul starkly divided conversations but in fact there are a number of people in the institution at various strategy inkic and important places in the institution that want to see you do the work that reaches out to the public. so. >> greet, more questions. >> okay, yes, sir. wait for the mic. thank you. and tell us who you are. >> allen deafenson. i work at the library of congress where we are starting to archive backstory for long-term. >> thank you. >> and so my question relates to that, a couple of questions. first of all, what value do you see in communicating historical knowledge through audio -- through audio alone, if you might want to talk about that? value pan limitations? the other thing is what value do you think archiving this for people many, many years in the
future will have to -- to access this show? >> well, i'll take the second one first. tremendous value in ark identifying. no. >> keep doing it. keep doing it. >> nathan is laughing at me because he knows most of my answers are, well, b.s. but great value because you know in dog years in podcast years we're about 400,000 years old. i mean podcasts just don't last very long. and we've been very fortunate. somebody talked about -- i guess the balance of work appear how much time you put -- let of my time now goes into just keeping the show afloat financially and personnel changes. although i don't run the show in any way. but shows don't last. and what you're doing will last.
so extraordinarily important. and i would be happy to ask nathan to write a letter to that effect in case it will help you with your -- and i'm happy to writ a letter for that. audio? i'll start with my answer. i'd love to hear from other people. i have been shocked at, you know -- i read marshall mcclun. even teach marshall mcclun i've been shocked what an intimate medium audio is, especially the podcast, the less formulaic forms of audio. and you know, this is remaking american and political history. franklin d. roosevelt remade american political history by using the radio. he did it in a way -- it wasn't
just the technology. herbert whoever used to talk like this on the radio and it just didn't work so well. but roosevelt got the -- the format and the technology right, and changed americans' sense of their relationship to the federal government. what could be -- what could be less intimate than the federal government? by using audio. and i think some of the more talented podcasters out there, and some of them are in this room -- are doing exactly the same thing. it's just resonates in a way that a scholarly article isn't going to. aside from the reach. i mean, actually the ability to remember moments from that. i've never heard anybody refer to a driveway moment for an
article in the journal of american history. i don't doubt. probably people sitting here spent years in driveways finishing an article. but driveway moments happen all the time with audio. and so i think that's part of the value. >> yeah, well, this is something that brian gestured towards is just the reach, right, the accessibility. and that's something not just about audio but about a podcast in particular. being able to carry it around in your pocket and listen to it on the plane, as i'm sure everyone did here to get ready for this panel. yeah, i mean just having it at your finger tips that way, and making it browsable, essentially. making it there to where i want to -- i'm going to search history and have that come up and have backstory come up and have content like that available to people who are not -- they're not going to -- they're definitely not going to read a
journal article. might not read the op-ed in the "washington post" or something like that. but here i'm walking the dog. now i'm learning about climate change. it's just -- yeah, it's incredible that way. also i would say particular to the podcast is the flexibility it allows in terms of production that you're not going to get upon a live radio like when it was supposed to be basically history -- car talk but history. you're not getting the -- the sustained storytelling that you can do with the podcast. so i think it's, you know, immensely exciting. >> i would only add in terms of some of the costs that i think we incur when we rely on the audio format. i mean i'm a big fan of this platform in a bundle of other ways of sharing knowledge. one of the limitations -- in has actually been shared with me by some guests and other people, just in terms of wanting more information is we don't have the benefit of footnotes and
bibliography. there is a lot of scholarship we draw from, a on the fly in a riff and a book comes to mind. for more on this we can't say please go see. we don't get the tip of the hat to everybody who might be with us in the booth from a content standpoint. >> right. >> and in that sense i oftentimes feel -- i'll send follow up notes to the people want you to know i was really driven by something you said and in another piece about this. help moved my thinking. just so there is acknowledges the broader scholarly community that might not get a chance to have the name called during the credits. >> yes. >> hi i'm kathryn ostransky tp i taut for six years at angela state university in texas. i saut taught freshman survey crasses to students who are first generation, maybe out of maybe 225 students in a semester
i might have four history majors. sp so you framed your audience in terms of the public and always talking about essentially adults who are learning more about the issues of the day and the issues of history. it seems to me that my students -- my freshman are very much that public audience. >> oh, yes. >> so i wanted to hear how you frame your audience in terms of students, because i certainly have used backstory a lot very effectively in the classroom, not just for the content that you all provide, the ability to weave in the stories of people who might not otherwise make it into the narrative of the lecture. but also for the process of what historians do and sort of admonition of like this is what your professors do. i know some of these people were being interviewed or doing the
interviewing, right. so -- how do you frame your -- your production in terms of -- of reaching that audience pan helping out teachers in those types of classrooms? >> yeah, well, so while we're giving shout outs, a shout out to the national endowment for the humanities. who has been -- we have an aincredibly generous aanonymous donor but next to that anonymous donor wsh the national endowment for the humanities has been the most consistent and generous form of support. and that last grant comes in the form of something called classroom connections. which aside from supporting the basic costs of production allows us to work with uva's curry
school of education to target -- i can't remember exactly how many shows. but a good number of shows specifically for use in classrooms from high school through college. and we don't do do anything -- stop me if i'm wrong. but as cohosts -- we didn't plan the bells. but i hope the n.e.h. is listening. we are not aware of what's a classroom connection show or not in terms of content or discussion. but in the post production we do some of the very things that nathan was talking about. we provide detailed lists of resources. we also distill some of the ideas into a little bit of video that might convey some of the key ideas.
the other thing we do and don't do it in a systematic fashion is we meet with conferences -- large national conferences of high school teachers, for instance. we hear from a lot of teachers who use our material. and i'm always -- i mean, i can't imagine an audience that i want to reach more than that. so thank you very much for -- for what you've been doing. but, you know, i think honestly we reach a lot of people spontaneously, not through any kind of systematic effort so after the panel i'd love to hear your thoughts about how we can on classroom connections a little more systematic and reaching the classrooms. >> thank you. >> to connect this to the earlier question about what are academics supposed to do and rewarded for doing. i think anyone who teaches is already reaching the public.
and so. >> absolutely. >> my colleagues who say well i can't do do that i have to tell them desh dsh o -- well you already are whether that's good or bad news. again you don't give the footnotes when you lecture undergrts or sparingly. the distillation how we speak to each other in a an intellectual setting and how we transfer that to people who don't care. and good for them. they really don't need to know all the detail. they really want the very clear narrative. and analytic content that help them think about the past. >> and i will share the first comment i saw when we moved away from the public radio 52-minute hour with requisite breaks at certain points in the hour. to podcast.
the first negative comment i saw. -- grantedly i'm usually shielded from these and i told you i don't go to compensate section. but the first negative comment was a big fan of backstory and was upset at podcast format because the first format ended before her exercise routine did. and she was very upset that she used to time her exercise regime to backstory. i wrote back and said personally i'd be delighted to end my exercise regime earlier. but -- yes. >> you have the mic. >> the teacher historian at the white house historical association. non-profit, non-partisan. important distinction. >> before you didn't have to say both now you do. >> important distinction.
backstory has gone through a number of of interesting iterations. i've actually been honored to be on it. and thank you. >> thank you. >> what do you guys see as your future goals? what's next? >> nathan has been talking a lot diana ross and the supremes and how diana ross left the supremes. i think the nathan conway show. i'm just kidding. i don't know. >> yeah, no, i mean it's -- it's something that we think about in part because of funding issues, in part of because of generational questions. there are, you know, yeah very real career management questions. slt o a lot is there. for now we found a good sweet spot in terms of the production schedule, the platform, i think we're probably going to keep doing shows nar, you know, firstly connected to the news cycle but then with a kind of
bundle of evergreen topics. i don't know if there is any equal tate i have adjustments on the horizon. we haven't had those meetings i would say. but i know we get a great deal of enjoyment from the show and want to keep doing it as long as we can. >> you got any ideas? >> i'll moel you. >> email me. >> just to add that to that. i started about the same time that nathan and joanne did. it's interesting to me i had been a fan of the show when just the original three hosts. >> he is required to say that. >> yeah, check is in the mail, i hope. no, to see new hosts come in and the show sustain its popularity and grow and not only grow in popularity but grow in the topics that it's covering. i think it was encouraging for me to see that, oh, in show -- people can tag team out even.
ands show can live on past the -- however long the people want to do it, right, so it's got -- it can inject fresh blood respect into it and keep going. it's sort of -- i see it as sort of an institution. . i'm speaking as an outsider now but i see it as an institution that can keep going on beyond peter, brian and ed, however long they want to do it. but i don't know what brian thinks about that. >> it's my dream. to create the kind of platform that can be modified and changed and renewed. absolutely. >> a hand here. >> elizabeth mccrae at western carolina university. this is maybe more pointed for nathan although professor tup lynn too. you talked about that backstory gave you the ability i think to experiment with your anti-racist work. >> yeah. >> so not just -- i gather that
meant not just in the platform of audio but experience -- could you take talk a little bit more about one of those experiments. >> yeah. >> or wlau meant. >> what i meant by that, yeah. so how to put this. so when you are writing for scholarly audiences the kind of positioning that one does to let a reader know where you stand relative to existing debates, archives and so forth. there is not a whole lot of that for the podcast. here i argue such and such that sentence never comes out in the podcast. however, i think there are really important thinks to joey's point that one can do to take a story folks think they know and to help to change it and to modified it, right. spo i mean, again, one of the things i think is really important for example for the folks that do work in the early period of u.s. history -- and again this is something that
came across strongly in the interview with joyce wsh -- is just how integral native american technology was in the creation of the early republic's own sense of science. so when joyce was describing for instance that when you arrive on the shores of north america it's not some overgrown forest because the native american people have been good at curating all kinds of ways one could pass through the wooded areas. it was not simply an unkept, uncultivated wilderness. it's important for listeners to understand that technology in the modern united states doesn't begin with the arrival of europeans. or when we did a show about "black panther," the that it was a cultural moment. it was important to think not just about the film itself but the long history of efforts of black self-determination nchg the popularity of the film. i had the opportunity to write a bit about that for the hollywood reporter but put going in a podcast format that reached a
wide audience for important for getting people to appreciate what was happening was not just another kind of moment of pop culture. when we had a discussion about confederate monuments that was a show that helped crystalize this. as historians we were trying to get our footing, where we stand on existing confederate statuary. and how do we respond to a moment where the country grapples with whether or not to memorialize war heroes or traitors. for me i have conversations with folks i respect who are deeply informed about the issues, it was a moment i think again to experiment pan in what the argument is about ending white supremacy would look like in terms of an actual policy for what kwish does with a statue or in a city like richmond or someplace else. that's different nan taking the sangt moneyious position an academic article that very few will read.
i have the benefit of teaching a class i love called racial literacy for historians or racial literacy in the archives. i try to have students in the class think about what it would mean to step out with in re own work and understand that, number one, their experience as scholars is a starting point for actually doing good riggerous work. similar similarly on about a backstory one of the things we do by acknowledging experience and not pretending the objective detached disembodied observer bren out of european modes of knowing and doing research. that's actually anti-racist work. by foreground going that and speaking from that vantage point. so i think the show provides an important platform for selectively making those points, you know, explicitly and other times allowing the conversations or the topic selection to do some of that work. >> are there any other
questions? yes? >> nigh leah at the contender school. i have a two-part question. the first is a broad question for all panelists which is that do you think that historians, particularly in the age of today or of the moment have a responsibility to engage the public beyond teaching in classrooms or engaging public beyond say the ivory tower? if so, why, if not, why not? i'm interested in hearing the panel's response. and then two, i'm also interested in wondering if there is something to be said for your role or the medium you guys use as an aggregator of good
historical and analyticalwork in a post fact- or alternative truth, or turkeyly where people are -- orb have their own set ever facts. particularly in engaging a wider audience but also aggregating the good work that lots and lots and lots of people are doing through a very powerful platform and through a powerful medium. i'm wondering if you can talk about that a bit as well. >> i do think i already said that i think historians as well as other academics in other fields do have this responsibility. and particularly because of the moment that we are in now. to talk about what knowledge is and what facts can determine. it seems that should be part of our job.
in terms of climate history i feel like i'm part of a tag team involving scientists on the one hand and peoplely broadly kfd in the environmental humanities and maybe social scientists about policy are on the other. the scientists if i ever feel like i'm getting heat -- sorry -- for talking about climate change as a historian, i just look at what happens to climate scientisting speaking in public. it's amazing how they are immediately attacked and become objects of ridicule and abuse. they are simply stating the facts. and that's what happens. but injury it's important for non-scientists to support them, to point out that that is a form of knowledge that has validity. and then, again as a historian, i also want to point out that this moment may be unprecedented
for many reasons. but it's entirely unprecedented and here are reasons why we can think calm will about the state that we are in. which i just think that given the moment that we're in is important. and i should -- i should help do that. >> so first of all, i want to give you a round of applause for organizing this conference. [ applause ] >> speaking of aggregation of facts this is a great way to go from everything i have seen so far. i think we have an obligation as a profession to do public engagement. but i'm still a big believer in specialization and division of labor. and i have colleagues who are better teachers than i am.
i love it when they teach. i teach also. but i think students benefit more when the very best teachers do the teaching. i have colleagues who are better scholars than i am. i think we all need to think of ourselves collectively in the best sense of the word a profession. and so the profession needs to engage publicly but there are people better than i am at public engagement as well. i think if we could all think about where we can contribute to the multiple responsibilities that we have, and privileges because we have privileges being in in discipline -- if we can think about that collectively and figure out who is best at doing what, i think the public will be much better served that way. that's the way i would answer your first question.
sadly, on the second fact aggregating, besides thanking you for doing this, imwhat's said is i kind of thought of backstory as that for a while. but the -- that moment in a way has passed. there are more urgent needs. we need people who can tell us if a video is a fake video or not. we need people who consistently call out, you know, an ocean of lies when they see an ocean of lies. i mean, it's the ability of a podcast to influence a world that is rapidly moving towards not being able to distinguish whether something you see in a video is real or not, i'm a -- i'm afraid were just a drop in the bucket in the fight against
that, not that we shouldn't try. >> and if i could -- for academics distinguish between what we do is knowledge just in case versus knowledge just in time. because, i think there is a lot, again speaking about climate history where it seems immediately -- and timely again for very sad reasons. and can be deployed right away. i would hate for the academy to only do that, that we're only supposed to study stuff immediately timely. that we need all the just in case kinds of analysis. people look at is it stuff that you don't see the immediate application, but you never know. and also if we were to really be in a state of emergency where we were only allowed to work on stuff that was immediately relevant, there is something just kind of over about the
pursuit of knowledge and the ability that we're going to give to future generations to kind of experience what it is like to be a scholar and a teacher, if it all only comes down to the immediate application. >> please go ahead. >> so the -- to your first question, the way that i think about it is there is obls and then there is opportunity and obligation. saying that we have an obligation can feel i think kind of- echoing people here -- can feel like a burden maybe. like, oh i need to check in on twitter and see if there is anything to weigh in on, right. that takes away from our productivity in other ways. it's going to, you know, cause anxiety -- mass anxiety for historians i think. it's not to say we have an obligation to be right there with the hot take. but it's to say we have the opportunity and to recognize our expertise as a tool for that.
and in terms of like of an aggregation of knowledge -- this is what relating to the first question is. pink of backstory as the warm take rather than the hot take. it could be warmed over. >> that's the tag line. >> the tepp i had take. >> the warmed over take. >> warmed over -- such a rabbit hole. >> take it as far as you want to. no, but in seriousness, it's -- yes, we can -- the show can react so sort of breaking topics. but it also has that couple of week lag time where you can dip into the historiography and you can aggregate facts as you suggest. and as brian says, be a drop in the bucket at least in -- in dern dsh against -- in the fight against the propagation of lies we often see. >> i know we're a bit over. so i'll keep it brief.
i think this is a really rich moment in which we are be encouraged to just develop fluency in a bunch of different forms. so i think a lot of people are going to feel stronger or lesser pulls to, you know, weigh in in public forum. but i don't think anybody is going to be kpetly separated from the need or the desire. and so it might not even be a question of having to induce people to engage. but but actually asking and/or encouraging them to give them the tools to fruitfully engage. i like the ideas of just in case and just in time. i have graduates who want to jump from a half done dissertation into podcasting or have a trade press contract right away but they don't have a topic necessarily hammered out. i do think there is something about walking young minds through the stages of a project maturing and giving them -- and through that process a confidence and allowing them to weigh in with great gravity when the time comes and the public
debate needs the work any do. all i would say is giving us the tool kit where we feel comfortable doing a deep dive monograch, op-ed, article and podcast. feels like a way to leave students well served. and i do think very much in keeping with that that archive creation is one of those skill sets. as we all know when we do the massive projects you wind up with a ton of material on the hard drive and you have to figure out how to organize it. i'm happy to have backstory be at least one of the archival projects i'm part of. i think of process it that way. i'm happy when i go back and read quicks essay written by dubois or others. and realized they were doing a version of this. they weren't you'll peer reviewed and in journals. there is way to look back at historians and realize there was always a way they were engaging,
playing with form and thinking about did nef radio shows. c.r. james was a journalist. there is a lot we can do to let us know we've been here before by looking back at earlier historians and seeing how they engage the doing in their moment and did so with great fluency. >> well that backstory is a perfect way to end the panel. i want to thank my colleagues on the panel and most of all i want to thank the audience for terrific questions and for coming to the session. remember, don't be a stranger. [ applause ] week nights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan3. tonight we continue our look at
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